LAKE FOREST – Chicago Bears President and CEO Ted Phillips dropped a bomb of near nuclear proportions at the end of the team’s veterans minicamp on Thursday, announcing in a statement that the organization “recently submitted an offer to purchase the property of Arlington International Racecourse “.
But while Arlington Heights is a great city and could make a wonderful new home for the Bears, this announcement is about as significant as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson will be the next President of the United States.
This season will be my 45th on the Chicago Bears beat. Rumors of a Bears Stadium being built over the view of Arlington International Racecourse have been around almost as long as I have.
Officials at Churchill Downs Inc., the current owner of the property, said he had “strong proposals from many parties” for the track’s redevelopment.
It’s not hard to see why the McCaskey family or any future Bears owner would want to build their own stadium.
According to Forbes magazine, just a few weeks ago the Bears are the seventh most valuable franchise in the NFL at $ 3.5 billion.
Among the top eight, the Patriots (second), Giants (third), Rams (fourth), Jets (sixth) and Washington (eighth) all have their own stadiums. The (Premier) Cowboys don’t own the AT&T stadium, but Jerry Jones has operational control of it and owns all kinds of properties around it.
Only the 49ers (fifth), like the Bears, are tenants, but they play in one of the league’s newest football palaces which provides significant sources of ancillary income.
This is where things get tricky.
I have no idea of the value of the Arlington property. But just for the sake of the conversation, let’s say it’s in the $ 200 million range, which was roughly the cost of rebuilding it after it burned down in 1985.
The McCaskey family could probably throw that out.
But the going rate for new NFL stadiums appears to be in the range of $ 2 billion. SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles cost $ 2.2 billion (a $ 5 billion complex but only $ 2.2 billion for the stadium part.) Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas cost $ 2 billion. Each has been completed within the past two years.
Stan Kroenke is the richest owner in the NFL, so he went petty cash to pay for the Rams’ new playground.
But Raiders owner Marc Davis is one of the less wealthy owners in the NFL (no poor here, guys) and he needed $ 750 million in public – read the taxpayers – money. from the City of Las Vegas and the State of Nevada and a loan of $ 650 million. Bank of America to build the Raiders building.
Obviously, I’m not aware of the McCaskey’s personal wealth, but it’s safe to say they’re closer to Davis than Kroenke.
According to digital media Vox, over $ 7 billion in taxpayer dollars spent building NFL stadiums over the past 20 years.
With the current state of Illinois finances, what are the odds that taxpayers will pay a bison nickel for a stadium for the Bears? Not to mention that even if they got $ 750 million in salary from the Raiders, they would still be looking for an additional $ 1.25 billion to complete the job?
Strange things have happened, but we have no idea where the Bears stand among the various bidders.
The most likely scenario here is that even if the Bears are the winning bidder, it would be to own the property to increase the value of the franchise when it is finally sold to someone who could afford a new stadium.
And reports continue to indicate that the team is not for sale.
Unless, of course, there’s some mysterious mega-bank, hedge fund, or potential real estate development partner that wants to foot the bill …
This is now going to continue to be a story for the foreseeable future and beyond, and I doubt even the McCaskeys will know how it’s going to play out.
After all, it’s been a story for over 40 years now and what has happened so far?